OTTO HAAS
Formerly Leo Liepmannssohn, est. 1866
London

Proprietors: Maud & Julia Rosenthal
Associate: Dr. Ulrich Drüner
 

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 A Brief History of Otto Haas
In the last 140 years, the firm of Otto Haas has main-
tained continuity, despite great political and economic upheavals. The main stages in its history are as follows:
1866-72
Liepmannssohn & Dufour,
Paris 11 rue des Saint-Pères
Priced catalogues nos. 1-37; auction catalogues.
 
Liepmannssohn's business card
from Markgrafenstrasse 52, Berlin
1874-1935 Leo Liepmannssohn, Berlin
Markgrafenstrasse 52 (1874-83)
Charlottenstrasse 63 (1883-93)
Bernburgerstrasse 14 (1893-1935)

Priced catalogues nos. 1-238;
64 auction catalogues (some in con-
junction with other firms, primarily with Martin Breslauer, Berlin, and K. E. Henrici, Berlin).
 
In 1903, the firm was acquired by Otto Haas, who was responsible for catalogues from no. 154.

1936-1955

Otto Haas, London
Priced catalogues nos. 1 – 34

Liepmannssohn's premises in
Markgrafenstrasse,
Berlin (1st floor)
1955-2004
In 1955, the firm was acquired by A. & M. Rosenthal, who were responsible for catalogues 35-39; since catalogue 40 (2003), Dr. Ulrich Drüner, one of Albi's closest colleagues and friends, has been active in the firm as an associate.
In 2006, Julia Rosenthal acquired her father's share in the partnership of Otto Haas, and along with Dr. Drüner, she upholds the high standards of cataloguing and dealership to take this renowned company forward into the 21st century.
 
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A unique firm history: Three proprietors in 137 years
Biographical notes by Oliver Neighbour
 

Leo Liepmannssohn (1840-1915)

In the mid 19th century, a growing desire to study
both early music theory and the music itself,
brought about a demand for publications and manu-
scripts from all periods, many of which would pre-
viously have aroused little interest. Private collec-
tors tended to lead the way, but institutions soon followed. By the time Leo Liepmannssohn served his apprenticeship with Asher & Co. in Berlin, it was not unusual for booksellers, Asher among them, to devote
a section of a catalogue, or even a complete one, to antiquarian music. That was the pattern adopted by Liepmannssohn when he moved to Paris in 1866
and set up his own business there.

Liepmannssohn was a good amateur pianist who
had studied with Hans von Bülow; indeed, in a letter
in our archive, dated 1890, Bülow states that he was
"once among my pupils" and adds that he was "not
the worst". Liepmannssohn had a broad knowledge
of music, which gradually became a salient feature
in his Parisian catalogues. During the Franco-
Prussian war of 1870-71, he retreated to London.
Finding on his return that, as a German citizen, he
was no longer entirely welcome, he sold his busi-
ness in 1872 and moved back to Berlin, first as a
partner in Asher & Co. and then, from 1874, as pro-
prietor of his own concern. His catalogues quickly became famous for the quality of the items offered
and the excellence of the descriptions. Indeed, they
acquired the status of valued reference works in their own right, to which acknowledged experts in particular fields would contribute entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter by Hans von Bülow,
dated 2nd January 1890, about
his pupil Liepmannssohn

 

Otto Haas (1874-1955)

Having already worked with well-known antiquarian booksellers in Frankfurt, New York and Berlin, Otto
Haas entered into partnership with Liepmannssohn early in 1903 and became proprietor of the firm later
in the same year. To clients, the change of owner-
ship was scarcely noticeable. Haas retained the
firm’s old name and continued the series of sale catalogues in their established form and with the
same expertise. After World War I, he restricted his sphere of activity almost entirely to autographs in general and to music and musical literature. By the
time he was obliged to leave Germany in 1935, a
large number of famous collections had passed
through his predecessor’s or his own hands, includ-
ing those of André, Commer, Eitner, Friedländer,
Heyer, James E. Matthew, Moscheles, Mottl, Rie-
mann, Rust, M. Schlesinger, Spohr and Wolffheim.
Cover of Otto Haas Catalogue No.1,
London, 1936
 
Haas’ application to re-establish his firm in London
(incidentally, the former home of his wife, Kathleen)
received warm support from Maggs Bros., and also from
the British dealers, Cecil Hopkinson and Percy Muir.
As early as 1909, Haas had issued a single catalogue
under his own name, with a never fulfilled promise of
more to follow. Now, starting afresh in London, he final-
ly dropped his anonymity, although the Daily Telegraph,
welcoming the first catalogue in his new series, em-
phasized the firm’s continuity by heading its article
‘Liepmannssohn, London’.

Postcard by Imogen Holst, the composer's
daughter, with Christmas wishes
for Frau Otto Haas
  

Albi Rosenthal (1914-2004)

Early in 1955, Haas sold the firm to Albi and Maud Rosenthal. Albi Rosenthal, both of whose grand-
fathers, Jacques Rosenthal and Leo S.Olschki, were celebrated antiquarian booksellers, had emigrated
from Munich to London in 1933. Three years later
he founded the firm A. Rosenthal Ltd., which still
exists. Among the subjects originally favoured by it
was music, which had always been Rosenthal’s
greatest enthusiasm, especially violin playing. The musical element, however, was now transferred to
his prestigious new firm. Haas had already issued
34 catalogues in London. Between 1955 and 1959, Rosenthal added three more, and two associated
with book fairs followed in 1972 and 1978 (unnum-
bered, but in fact nos. 38 and 39). Catalogue no. 40, (2005), marked a new beginning, exactly a century
after Haas' acquisition of the firm.

It was on a different aspect of Haas’ activities that Rosenthal tended to build. Many of the great insti-
tutional and private collectors of the first half of the century had not only bought from Haas but relied,
to a remarkable degree, on his scholarly judgement
and sound advice. As a collector himself, Rosenthal understood perfectly the varied requirements of his clients. He often became friends with them, taking pleasure in seeking out for them things which in
turn gave them pleasure and enhanced their collec-
tions, whether these were modest or internationally renowned. There is scarcely a public or private col-
lection in Europe or in the United States that has not been very considerably enriched through his pain-staking cooperation, whether as a consultant or agent. Perhaps his greatest achievement in recent years,
was to negotiate, sometimes against very considerable odds, the acquisition for the Paul Sacher Stiftung of a number of major archives, most notably those of Stravinsky and Webern.

Albi Rosenthal passed away on 3rd August 2004. The
most renowned music antiquarians (Bodin, Camner, Cox, Drüner, Lubrano, Mecklenburg, Schneider, Voerster) commemorated their colleague and men-
tor in a special catalogue, which was issued on the occasion of his Memorial Concert at the Wigmore Hall, London, on 5th November 2004.

Since then, the firm has continued under the direc-
tion of Maud and Julia Rosenthal, in association with
Dr. Ulrich Drüner, a leading German antiquarian and musicologist, Albi's oldest associate of 33 years standing. In Spring 2006, Otto Haas issued a major catalogue [41], W. A. Mozart and his World, to mark the 250th aniversary of the composer's birth, a benchmark contribution in Mozart year. Catalogue 42, featuring composers ranging from Leclair to Schoenberg, represented in rare editions, manuscripts and autograph letters [126 items], is now available.

Otto Haas aspires to continue its 140-year-old tradition
of serving scholarship by offering a wide spectrum of musical literature in all fields and price-ranges, building international public and private collections, undertaking auction representation and handling the sale of musical manuscripts on a commission basis, thus serving its clientele worldwide.

Albi Rosenthal, after the Sotheby's sale
of 17 May 1990, where he bought the
autograph of Beethoven's Cello-Sonata
for £480,000

 
                                        
Text and images © 2009 Otto Haas. All Rights Reserved.